Egungun be Careful: Reconciling Yoruba Culture and Contemporary Nigerian Law on the Status, Powers and Immunity of the Indigenous African Masquerade
Recent Research Advances in Arts and Social Studies Vol. 2,
18 November 2023
In indigenous societal structure, cultural norms vest the masquerade as a persona with remarkable status and powers. By virtue of its powers and status, a masquerade enjoys some indulgences, including encroaching on the rights of other persons, without facing legal sanctions.
By and large, modernity has not radically altered the traditional perception of the masquerade in terms of its customarily imbued powers and status. However, unlike in the pre-colonial past where customs constituted the bedrock of the law, conducts in the contemporary settings are regulated by a complex web of non-customary laws which include the constitution, enacted statutes and judge-made laws.
With contemporary law operating on the principle of ‘equality before the law’ or ‘no one is above the law’, conducts of the masquerade, necessarily, would be appraised and adjudged within the general legal framework operating in the society. Thus arises the question whether the indulgences, immunity and related exceptions availed the masquerade under indigenous systems are still operative, and to what extent, if so, under contemporary Nigerian legal system. This paper engages this question and related issues, with the practice among the Yoruba tribe of South-western Nigeria as focal point.